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Kenny Fraser, the founder and CEO of Sunstone Communication, has a thoughtful post up titled Is There A Right Or Wrong Way To Build A Startup Ecosystem?
In it he asks a number of good questions to ponder, starting off strong by asking “Why try to build what already exists in California? Why not ask ourselves what our community has that Silicon Valley doesn’t have. And build on our positives to create something different and better.”
This past weekend, seven teams from regions across the world met in Edinburgh, Scotland to continue on a two-year journey to develop strategies and implement plans to build startup communities in their regions. Delegations from Scotland, Finland, Hangzhou (China), Turkey, Andalucia (Spain), and Veracruz (Mexico) were all taking part in the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (REAP) organized and run by the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship.
The teams were led through this three-day workshop by MIT Sloan faculty whose research has contributed significantly to the academic understanding of the drivers and impact of innovation-driven entrepreneurial ecosystems and startup communities. The program originated as a response to frequent requests of faculty to give brief talks on the subject and consult to regions around the globe; the desire to take a deeper look at how to better examine and accelerate these entrepreneurial ecosystems and a commitment to driving towards impact resulted in the MIT REAP program. They formed MIT REAP as part of an comprehensive effort to engage all stakeholders in a regional strategy, putting their research into practice.
One part of the MIT REAP curriculum is to assemble a task force of key players across the ecosystem to form a strong and defensible strategy for building an entrepreneurial community within a given region. Having a strategy for your community follows from the findings from Professors Scott Stern and Fiona Murray who have dedicated their careers to studying entrepreneurship and innovation. This past week in Edinburgh, MIT REAP members were able to closely examine one cluster emerging in Scotland by touring sites across the wave energy ecosystem. In addition to hosting many leading wave energy companies born out of Scottish universities, including Pelamis and AWS, Scotland is home to the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), a third-party certification center for new technologies. Scotland is geographically located in one of the five regions in the world with consistent and strong wave and tidal activity. The region’s leadership and drive in this area now mean that other regions are unlikely to overtake its position as wave energy leader. MIT REAP members examined the unique characteristics of the region that enable this position and how the public and private sector actors contribute to its competitiveness.
The MIT REAP teams also covered the hot topic of accelerators and their recent proliferation across the globe. BillAulet, one of the three core MIT REAP faculty members, even wrote a small write-up in Startup Communities about the MIT Founders’ Skills Accelerator which gave 10 student-entrepreneur teams up to $20K to found a company this past summer. The MIT REAP teams were aware of accelerator’s potential to fulfill part four of the Boulder thesis: to engage the entrepreneurial stack. However, with that awareness also came a reluctance to simply launch copy-cat accelerators with low value to entrepreneurs and other participants. Yet the appetite remains strong for knowledge and transferrable take-aways from accelerators such as TechStars, as regions around the world continue to search for sparks to flame full-fledged startup communities.
This first cohort of regions will complete the MIT REAP program in late 2013, coinciding with the launch of a second cohort. To learn more about becoming an MIT REAP member or how to put your own region’s initiatives and innovation-driven entrepreneurial activity on the map, you can visit reap.mit.edu.
About the author:
Beto Juárez III is a second-year MBA student at MIT Sloan and a Springworks scholar. In addition to helping administer the MIT REAP program, he is also writing a thesis on the formation of entrepreneurial communities, and is the co-founder of SpokeSwap, a peer-to-peer rental marketplace.